RCCbc projects that you’re working on?
In my first six months with the Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCbc), I’ve been providing support for the BC Rural Locum Discussion Group, helping keep our educational calendar up to date, assisting Dr. Etienne van der Linde (of CAEP and the SRPC) in conducting a survey on rural emergency room resources in BC, and providing staff support for the Choices in Practice and Parenting Initiative.
I’ve also been working with the UBC Rural Continuing Professional Development Program. My role there involves supporting the Hands-On Ultrasound Education (HOUSE) course, administering the Rural BC Airway Mannequin Loan Program, and inviting physicians and other health professionals to contribute to This Changed My Practice (Rural).
Favourite RCCbc project to date and why?
Most recently I’ve been sinking my teeth into the Choices in Practice and Parenting Initiative, led by Drs. Mary Johnston and Kirstie Overhill. The goals of the initiative are to provide support and mentoring for physicians, residents, and medical students, particularly those in rural areas, as they plan, start, and raise their families. Questions of when to begin a family and how to raise one are so inextricably entwined with so many other concerns facing anyone in rural communities – availability of childcare, affordability of housing, job availability for partners and spouses, and access to education for children and their physician parents. At the same time, rural communities need young families as much as they need physicians to stay healthy and vibrant. I see supporting this project as supporting my cohort’s decision to live and practice rurally.
You grew up in a rural community in the United States. What is your best and/or quirkiest memory of living in a rural community?
It’s hard to pick one! Living in Vancouver, I definitely miss the proximity to nature and animals, even when it results in misadventures (the time I wound up covered in leeches after playing in our creek; the time we all almost got sprayed by a skunk while picking wild black raspberries; the time we found a tree frog in our toilet). In addition to various grain crops, prairie hay, and a garden for personal use, we also raise cattle, and on rare occasions we have to bring a newborn calf into the house to warm it up in a blizzard—a fun novelty for everyone except the calf.
You recently finished your Masters. What was the most interesting part of that experience?
My MA is in Linguistics. I came to this really broad field with the question of whether we can make and comprehend music for the same reasons we can speak and understand language, and I got really interested in the neuroscience of language and music. In undergrad, I worked in an electroencephalography (EEG) lab, and read a lot of studies that used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) to explore how language and music are processed in the brain. A lot of what we know about language and the brain comes from studies of aphasia and disordered speech, and there’s some interesting work being done on the efficacy of different music therapy techniques in addressing these communication challenges.
None of this is directly germane to the work I’m doing now with the RCCbc, but linguistics training tends to promote lateral thinking. My interest in language, speech, and the brain led me to speech language pathology and audiology, the most natural intersection of linguistics and medicine. Speech pathology and audiology, like medicine and other allied health care professions, face recruitment and retention issues in rural areas. I don’t know if I’ll pursue a second career as a speech pathologist, if (or when) I’ll move away from Vancouver, or whether I’ll stay in BC forever. But because of my upbringing, I feel I’m able to sympathize with both new-to-rural-practice physicians and members of the communities who need them. I’m very excited at the opportunity to contribute to work promoting their success, as I view it as a chance to put my graduate training to work for communities like the one where I grew up.